Sunday, December 7, 2014


Any Questions Marie-Louise Gay

A gorgeous over-sized picture book that gives kids a glimpse into the engine of imagination. Through collaboration, playful illustrations and many edits, a story comes together. Should be in every primary classroom. (Hannah)

André Alexis

Pastoral is an enriching antidote to our high speed frantic digital world. The beautifully crafted real book is printed by the highly acclaimed Coach House Books and is truly a perfect amalgam of form and function. Alexis could be channeling Jane Austen as this is a unique novel of subtle emotion and not so subtle mores rubbing up against each other. Father Christopher Pennant is assigned to a sleepy town in Eastern Ontario. Liz Denny is one of his young parishioners, and it is through her character that Austen is whispering the wisdom of another time and place. The natural landscape is also a vibrant character. Pastoral was nominated for the Roger's Trust Writer's Prize for Fiction. (Barb)

The Secret Place
Tana French

If you haven't read her and also happen to be looking for a new crime novelist, stop looking - you've found her. French is Irish and holds in her writing the particular lyricism and deep Irish intuition about the psyche. Her Dublin detectives carry a lot of baggage - surly, sarcastic, and outrageously outspoken. An unsolved murder committed a year previously between the grounds of a private girls' and boys' school comes to life again in "Cold Cases." Lead detective Conway, a woman in a macho man's world and a seeming dominatrix, was was part of the initial stymied investigation. As she and her partner spend a day interrogating a cult of teenaged girls from the school, you will probably agree that French may even have surpassed Margaret Atwood in understanding the dark side of young womanhood - but updated for the texting generation! (Barb)

The Burning Room
Michael Connelly

Connelly is a favourite of many writers. That tells you a lot. Again L.A. detective Harry Bosch has a few months before full retirement - kind of a miracle because he breaks all of the rules and basically pisses off the upper echelons while always solving the case. Here Connelly has provided Bosch with a sassy young partner, Lucy Soto. Harry Bosch books are not slam crash bang, but are built carefully on tediously sussed out details and depth of character. This cold case has been revived because a casualty in a shooting in the original crime, committed years before, has died and now it is a full-blown murder - which of course shines a light on corrupt politicians. An interesting read in light of all the procedural issues of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson. (Barb)

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening 
Joseph Goldstein

One of my favourite book recommendations for a beginner to meditation is Seeking the Heart of Wisdom. Definitely Buddhist in content, it is written in a way that many people from most worldviews can enjoy and benefit from. Joseph Goldstein, one of the authors (Jack Kornfield is the other) has written a new book called Mindfulness. It is a commentary on the Buddha's Satipatthana sutta, and is wonderful without exception. This is the original mindfulness text, and the interpretation by Goldstein represents 40 years of his practice, study, and teaching. Openhearted. Crystal clear. Insightful. I recommend it to all Buddhists and to any mental/physical health practitioner who wants to take their mindfulness to the next level. (Ken)

Kim Thúy

A beautiful slip of a book, from the cover art to the beautiful tale of belonging to the food - Mãn is an absolute delight to read. The pages turn themselves as we learn about the intricacies of Vietnamese dishes and quiet dreams of hardworking and inspired chef Mãn. (Hannah)

Sweet Affliction 
Anna Leventhal

You don't have to take my word for it anymore, because the Quebec Writer's Federation just gave Leventhal's first collection of stories the award for best first book. They have money, so they know what's what. Intricate, loving, strange, Sweet Affliction is one of the best books - first or otherwise - of this year. Fun fact: Leventhal comes out of the same Montreal writers' group as Giller-winner Sean Michaels. (Andrew)

The Road Narrows As You Go 
Lee Henderson

I like to think that there's an alternate CanLit, where Lee Henderson's a heavy, where his new books are hotly anticipated. Alas, his new novel arrived pretty quietly this year. Following his debut collection, The Broken Record Technique, and first novel, The Man Game (both award-winning, if you're into that) Henderson proves with The Road Narrows As You Go that he's a writer you need to keep tabs on. Set in 1980s San Francisco, the novel explores the relationship between business and art, but never gets tedious or pedantic about it. (Andrew)

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